Form Design in Jira Matters

Let’s just admit it. Forms aren’t sexy. They aren’t exciting or innovative. Few people would call them fun. They are, however, important and few business tools have proven to be as enduring. 

The move from paper to electronic forms, and then to online forms solved a lot of problems. We no longer have to contend with illegible hand-writing and necessary fields that were left blank. But the advent of online forms also presents a challenge. How can we best use the tools we have – validation, conditional logic, auto-formatting – to truly optimize our forms so that teams get the information they need and users have a painless, possibly even pleasant, experience?

Forms and screens that serve as electronic forms (I’ll be using the terms forms and screens interchangeably) are more than just vehicles for data collection. They are the first step that gets the ball rolling on most business processes. They are also one of the primary ways we interact with our internal and external customers. And they are a mechanism for influencing (whether we want to or not) human behavior. Combining forms with a powerful workflow engine like Jira is a great way to get work done. Ensure that your Jira forms are well-designed and you’ll do more than get work done. You’ll save resources, improve relationships and influence user actions in the right direction.

Your Jira Forms Drive Data Quality

We create forms for collecting data, and the quality of the form will go along way towards determining the quality of the data. With the creation of every issue type and every request type, you are making decisions – which fields to include on which screens, what order to list the fields in, what justifies the creation of a new custom field – that will impact the quality of data you receive. In turn, getting better data will allow you to:

  • Provide better, faster service – Imagine if all of your Jira Service Desk agents could provide one-touch service, receiving all of the information they need on the initial request and responding to the customer to let them know that issue has been resolved. There’s no going back and forth to collect the missing pieces. No digging through comment chains, no trying to parse out multiple data points that have been lumped together in a description field – all of the needed data is there, where agents can find it. Requests move through the queue faster, pleasing customers and allowing agents to focus on higher value work.
  • Refine your processes – We often create our processes to accommodate the limitations of what we know or what our software can do. Jira is super flexible, but configuration can become complex.  Using well-designed forms that embed in Jira issues allows you to reduce the number of issue types (the work of capturing specific pieces of data is shifted from the issue to the form), simplify workflows (use checklists instead of additional statuses or subtasks) and prune back that jungle of Jira custom fields. Your Jira instance becomes less complex,  and your Jira administrator less burdened. Shifting from custom fields to form fields will also improve Jira performance. 
  • In JSD, being able to easily create portal forms tailored to capture the information needed for each request type allows you to better organize your queues, channeling work to the agent best equipped to handle the request.
  • Enhance Compliance – Forms can serve as a record, capturing and preserving data from different sources, at different points in time, enhancing compliance and accountability. A well-designed form will make it easy to provide management with useful reports, and auditors with the information they need. Adding multiple copies of a well-designed form to a Jira issue allows you to see not only the current state of an issue, but also the discoveries that have been made along the way.
  • Improve the Bottom Line – What is the cost of bad data? How much time do service agents, Jira users and customers loose searching for information that’s hard to find, invalid or missing? Include a field to capture a document version number on a form and the agent can glean the data at a glance. Obtaining the same information through a comment can cost hours, as the request sits, waiting for the customer to come back with needed data. Later, when the agent goes to retrieve the information combing through a comment chain can be like going down a rabbit hole. Better forms lead to better productivity.

Forms are the Basis of Relationships

A form can be the start of a beautiful friendship. Or not. When you consider how many business processes start with a user filling a form, it’s amazing that more attention isn’t given to form design as part of managing customer relations.

Most business processes start with a form. That means that the form is often your one and only chance to make a first impression.  In some cases, government bureaucracies come to mind, a form or forms may be the only way customers interact with an organization. If the forms are bad, the relationship won’t be good. Bad forms can result in users postponing, abandoning and sometimes bypassing key processes.

On the other hand, well-designed, intuitive, user-friendly forms can reduce friction, build rapport and help set appropriate expectations. The improved service that results from good data collection will inspire confidence. Your forms build your reputation and promote your brand.

Form Design Influences Behavior

How we design our forms – the words we choose, the presence or absence of default values, the order of choice options – influence users decisions. If that sounds far fetched consider the image below illustrating organ donation enrollment in Europe.


Source: Why BI?

The stark difference between the rates for the countries listed on the left and those listed on the right isn’t due to culture or religion. It’s the difference between opting in and opting out. Want to increase employee participation your retirement contribution program? Change the form? Want to see more customers opt for a higher value product? Change the form.

We’ll be discussing how you can use wording, question framing, defaults and choice architecture to influence user choices in a future article. And if you’re thinking, “Wait, that’s manipulative. I don’t want to do that,” we’ll also discuss how you can mitigate the influence of your questions on users choices (though it’s not possible to be 100% neutral).

Where Do We Go From Here?

Once you’re convinced that form design matters, what’s the next step? Start by reframing how you think about the form process.

The Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government recently introduced the WISER framework for form design. It lays out specific steps to go through in identifying the form’s audience, providing appropriate instructions, using a clear layout, etc.

Source: FORM-A-PALOOZA 2019

There are two big things you should notice about the WISER framework.  First, the framework focuses on the user’s point of view. Who are the users? Why should they complete the form? What information will they need? What language will they understand?

Second, the framework tells us to test and repeat. You wouldn’t adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude towards developing software, so don’t do that with your forms either. Form design needs to be iterative.

Keep those things in mind as we move forward. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a deep dive into form design, discussing the details of form layout, good questions, and things to think about form-wise when you bring an existing process into Jira for the first time. Then we’ll bring in our friend and Jira super-user, Rachel Wright, to discuss how you can apply these concepts in Jira.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming articles in the series:

  • Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira – Form layout affects completion rates and user frustration. We’ll discuss the right way to do it.
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira – How do you choose the right words, field types and validation levels? This article will dig into the nitty gritty of creating good form questions. 
  • Things to Think About when Converting Forms in Jira – Bringing a process into Jira for the first time? Don’t just copy forms straight across. This is a chance to make improvements.
  • Efficient Jira Screens and Jira Service Desk Request Forms – Jira screens and JSD request forms aren’t the same. Here’s how you can make each one work for its audience.
  • Tips for Creating Good Forms/Screens in Jira – Learn how you can leverage Jira features like tabs, workflow transitions and icons to create better forms and screens.
  • Form Design Best Practices: What You Can and Can’t Do in Jira – Now that we know what good form design means, we’ll hone in on which practices can be applied to Jira and Jira Service Desk
  • Use Cases – We’ll also include a series of use cases illustrating how using forms expands what you can do in Jira.
  • Form Audit – Finally, we’ll take a bad form and transform it to an awesome, user-friendly, data collecting machine.

Better Form Design in Jira (Series)

In 2017, ThinkTilt and Rachel Wright teamed up with the goal of helping business teams get more out of Jira and conquer their “to do” lists. In 2018, we helped administrators effectively manage Jira and battle custom field bloat. Now, we’re collaborating again to help you create better screens and forms in Jira and Jira Service Desk.

In our upcoming series, we’ll help you understand how form design can help or hinder data collection. We’ll help you write good questions, choose the right custom fields, and create forms that users actually want to complete. We’ll explore the screen and form capabilities of Jira, Jira Service Desk, and ProForma. Finally, we’ll provide use cases for various teams and turn bad forms into good ones.

Our first article tackles the differences between screens in Jira and forms in Service Desk. It’s important to understand how screens, screen schemes, and issue type screen schemes work together. Then, you can map screens to issue types and leverage JSD and ProForma forms.

We hope you’ll check in regularly to see the upcoming installments:

  • Why Form Design in Jira Matters  –  How you design your forms will impact the quality of data you receive, and much more!
  • Layout and Flow: Creating User-Friendly Forms in Jira – Form layout affects completion rates and user frustration. We’ll discuss the right way to do it.
  • Writing Good Form Questions in Jira – How do you choose the right words, field types and validation levels? This article will dig into the nitty gritty of creating good form questions. 
  • Things to think about when converting forms in Jira – Bringing a process into Jira for the first time? Don’t just copy forms straight across. This is a chance to make improvements.
  • Efficient Jira Screens and Jira Service Desk Request Forms – Jira screens and JSD request forms aren’t the same. Here’s how you can make each one work for its audience.
  • Tips for Creating good forms/screens in Jira – Learn how you can leverage Jira features like tabs, workflow transitions and icons to create better forms and screens.
  • Form Design Best Practices: What you can and can’t do in Jira – Now that we know what good form design means, we’ll hone in on which practices can be applied to Jira and Jira Service Desk
  • Use cases – We’ll also include a series of use cases illustrating how using forms expands what you can do in Jira.
  • Form audit – Finally, we’ll take a bad form and transform it to an awesome, user-friendly, data collecting machine.

About ThinkTilt

ProForma is the forms solution for Jira, making it easy for teams to build and deploy online forms, backed by Jira’s great workflow engine. Empower every team in your organization to take control of their processes and deliver first class request management. All the information you need, where you need it.

About Rachel Wright

Rachel Wright is an entrepreneur, process engineer, and Atlassian Certified Jira Administrator.  She is the owner and founder of Industry Templates, LLC, which helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes.  Rachel also uses Atlassian tools in her personal life for accomplishing goals and tracking tasks.  Her first book, the “Jira Strategy Admin Workbook, was written in Confluence and progress was tracked in Jira!

Role Based Jira, Jira Service Desk, and Confluence Training Strategy

When considering your Atlassian product training strategy, select content that’s specific to each user’s role and delivered in manageable pieces. Different types of users need different information, different levels of detail, and need it delivered at different times. It’s tempting to gather everyone in a big room for a marathon training class. But it’s much smarter to offer role-specific information in small, digestible, and progressive pieces.

Progressive, Role-based Training

Intro to Jira Cloud Agenda

In the beginning, a brand new user just needs to know the basics.  Answer questions like:  “What is this application?”, “How do I use it?”, and “How do I access it?” Take a look at the agenda in our 30 minute “Intro to Jira Cloud” online course, for example. It’s short and specifically designed not to overwhelm new users. The goal is to get them feeling comfortable in the application immediately. Consider that some employees may have used Atlassian applications before. Their previous experience, version, use, and expectations could differ from what’s expected in your organization.

As part of initial training, give new users a simple homework assignment. Here’s an example: (1) to log into the application, (2) bookmark it in the browser, and (3) create a Jira issue, a Confluence page, or a Jira Service Desk request. You can test whether their creation meets the needs of the organization. This is a great time to catch problems before they turn into bad habits. Look for future trouble like missing an important issue field, creating a page in the wrong global space, or providing vague request details.

Once the user understands the basics start adding additional content. Select new content based on user role, how they’ll use the software, and skills they’ll need to do their regular job. Time the content delivery so they can learn little by little without impacting their other work.

User Types and Roles

Here are some additional user types and content recommendations:

  • The regular or occasional user needs info about sharing and organizing their data, creating filter subscriptions, linking, and logging time.
  • The power user wants information about basic & advanced search, JQL, and bulk changes.
  • Team leads, project managers, and scrum masters want to know about views like dashboards, boards, and reports.
  • Service Desk Agents want to understand service level agreements (SLAs) and how to use JSD features to support their customers.
  • Application admins want information about configuration, performance, effective workflows, best practices, mistakes, and certification.

Delivering information progressively, and based on roles, lets you quickly and effectively train users. They can put the info into practice immediately and won’t forget everything they learned by the end of the day.

Let Us Handle Your Training

We know admins don’t always have the time or expertise to train users. We do and we’re good at it. Let us deliver your company-wide training though our efficient, 30-minute, online, skill or topic-based courses.

Please complete the form, or share it with your training coordinator, so we can recommend courses, presentations, and materials.

How can we help with your training needs?

Training Your Jira, Jira Service Desk & Confluence Users

The job of an Atlassian administrator is never done. Your list of responsibilities is endless. You’re making sure your applications are up and running so work can get done. You’re weighing the benefits and long-term impacts of customization and add-on requests. You’re assisting users with access, permissions, and restrictions. You’re helping teams get the most out of the applications. And some of you are doing all of this while performing other tasks or managing other software. With all the demands on an Atlassian administrator, where does user training fall on your to do list? If you’re like most admins, it’s probably at the very bottom.

Continue reading “Training Your Jira, Jira Service Desk & Confluence Users”

Atlassian Customer ShipIT Creates Dynamic Jira Map

Each quarter, Atlassian has a 24 hour hackathon, called ShipIt, where they stop all work duties to create something awesome.  It embodies their culture of innovation and demonstrates a sacred company value: “Be the change you seek.”

This week, 24 non-Atlassians participated in the first Atlassian User Group (AUG) Leader ShipIt.  Since we’re Atlassian customers, volunteers, and have work duties we can’t ignore, our hackathon lasted 3 weeks, instead of 24 hours.  We worked nights and weekends to bring our ideas to life and then submitted our finished products as a three minute video.

Project Planning at Atlassian Summit

We were one of 10 teams that accepted the ShipIt challenge.  Our team included six AUG Leaders from all over the country.  We named ourselves “Atlas”.  We wanted to solve a visibility issue that impacts the AUG program and we wanted to use Atlassian products to do it.

Problem Statement

As an Atlassian User Group Member, an AUG Leader, or member of the Atlassian Community Team, I’d like to:

  • See a visual representation of the active AUG locations around the world
  • Find the user groups near my location
  • View each group’s size, contact details, and the website URL
  • Encourage traveling users to connect with additional groups
  • Create a dynamic solution which will never be out of date or require manual maintenance
  • Encourage new membership by showing existing user groups
  • Encourage new group formation by showing location gaps
  • Use Atlassian tools to store the data and collaborate during the project

Our Solution

Jira Custom Fields

We built a dynamic map that pulls its data from Jira issues!  We started with a Jira project, where each user group is represented by an issue.  The project has custom fields, like “Map Location” and “Group Size”, to hold information about each group.  The project has custom workflow statuses, like “Active” and “Inactive”, to show the current state of each group.

We used Jira’s REST API to retrieve issue data for only user groups in certain statuses.  Next, we injected the JSON results into SQL 2016.  We then restructured the data for map use.  For example, we translated the plain text “Map Location” values into coordinates the Google Maps API would understand.  Finally, we created a script that automates the REST API calls and the Geocoding of the locations.  The script also generates an HTML file with all the user group data plotted.  The process of updating the HTML file on the server is automated too.  The file is uploaded to our Confluence instance and versioned through the REST API.  It is also published to an external website, demonstrating additional viewing abilities.

When a user group transitions to another status, or if any Jira issue data is updated, those changes are automatically reflected on the map!  This includes changes to the group’s name, estimated user counts, and group contact information.  The map requires no manual updates, which was a project goal.

Clicking a map pin displays city information, like the group size, the city contact email address, and a link to the group’s website.  The map also automatically centers to your current location and counts the total number of active user groups displayed.  The look and feel is fully customizable and results can be embedded on other websites, including Confluence and Jira.

Additionally, we used HipChat’s Botler service to create map entry point.  In HipChat, if an AUG Leader types “an AUG in” as in “Is there an AUG in Nebraska?” a link to the map will automatically appear.  See our creation in action with the three minute ShipIt video below.

You can also demo our proof of concept live!

Atlassian Products Used

We started collaborating in person at the Atlassian Summit user conference and used Atlassian tools to stay connected after returning home.  We used:

  • Trello to collect user stories, feature requests, and track progress,
  • Confluence to make decisions and document solution details,
  • HipChat for daily discussions and immediate feedback,
  • and Jira to store all user group location and status data.

Our Team

We’re very proud of what we built and had an awesome first Atlassian ShipIT experience!

  • Mark Livingstone, IT Director at Qualcomm and San Diego, CA AUG Leader
  • Marlon Palha, Head of Business Systems at ITHAKA and New York City AUG Leader
  • Stephen Sifers, Network Operations Center Manager at Sagiss and Dallas, TX AUG Leader
  • Jeff Tillett, Agile IT Operations Manager at AppDynamics and Dallas, TX AUG Leader
  • Justin Witz, Chief Technology Officer at FRA PlanTools LLC and Charlotte, NC AUG Leader
  • Rachel Wright, Author of the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook and member of the AUG Leader Council.

How to Study for Jira Administrator Certification

Back in early 2016, Atlassian launched a certification for Jira administrators. I was ecstatic to participate in the beta testing program and earn one of the first ACP-JA badges ever awarded!

Although it’s been three years since then and Atlassian has surely updated some aspects of the entire process, I’m sure my experience and recommendations are still valid for those taking the exam.

Atlassian describes their certification as a way to “…enhance your credibility, sharpen your performance, and help you deliver world-class Atlassian experiences to teams everywhere.”  The first step is passing a general scenario-based exam, called “ACP-100.”  Then, you’re eligible to take additional advanced tests to showcase specialized skills and keep your certification current.  The first additional test available is ACP-110: “Advanced Jira Workflows.”

Experience

Atlassian recommends 2-3 years of Jira administration experience.  When I took the exam, I had 5.5 years of general Jira user experience and 3.5 years experience as an administrator.  Even with more than the recommended experience, the exam was challenging.  I believe the year count alone doesn’t equate to “experience”.  There’s a large difference between causal application administration, where you make a project customization every now and then (but Jira basically runs itself), and deep administration, where you’ve experienced setting up the application from scratch, upgrading it, maintaining it, and are working daily in the administrative portion of the application.  If the majority of your time has been spent as a casual administrator, you’ll need extra learning and preparation time.

How to Study

1. Read everything about the exam on Atlassian’s web site.
Note which Jira versions the test will cover.

2. Read the entire Jira Administrator’s Guide for the versions you’ll be tested on.

3. Read the release notes for the versions the test will cover.

4. Visit every page in the application’s admin UI to remind yourself of the settings and capabilities.

5. Read the Atlassian-provided exam study guide and sample questions.
Recommendation:  Approach the Jira Administrator certification exam topics from multiple angles.  For example, if you have a small organization, with a handful of projects and users, you’ll want to consider how a large organization, with hundreds of projects and thousands of users, would tackle a problem.  If your organization uses the server version, you’ll want to consider how a strategy might differ in the cloud version.  Think of scenarios that don’t apply to your organization but would be common among others.  Think of areas of your application that aren’t setup quite right and how you’d do it better.  It’s not enough to understand your application’s intricacies, you need to understand how Jira is generally intended to be configured.

Some of the beta testers formed a study group.  We used the exam study guide to write all the questions we thought might be on the test.  Then, we answered each question in detail.  We met once a week for a month to review the content each user added, discuss alternatives, and add additional notes and experiences.  Many of us credit these study sessions as how we passed the test.  Why not form your own study group?

6. Read the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook.
It’s about what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, and why.  As part of the strategy recommendations, it covers admin concepts.  When I started writing the book, there wasn’t a certification, so I didn’t write it for that purpose. But it does make a great companion to the existing Atlassian documentation and certification study materials.  Read more about the book and its contents at: https://www.jirastrategy.com/contents

7. Visit the testing vendor’s website, as well as the website of the specific testing center, to learn all you can about the test experience.

For example, you’ll need to bring two forms of ID.  You won’t be able to take any belongings into the testing room.  (This includes your wallet, phone, and keys.)

Recommendation:  Bring a pair of earplugs.  They will shield you from potential distractions, like noise from adjoining rooms, your neighbor’s pencil tapping, and typing and mouse clicks that really stand out in an otherwise silent room.

Conclusion

I estimate I spent 10 hours specifically preparing for the exam.  I was very happy to pass, but even if I didn’t, the prep time was valuable.  I learned things I simply didn’t know and explored parts of the application I hadn’t touched in a while.  The certification process as a whole made me a better Jira Administrator.

Read next:  How to Extend your Jira Administrator Certification

JIRA Administrator Certification Earned

Certified JIRA Administrator
Rachel Wright, Certified JIRA Administrator

Today I learned that I passed the JIRA Administrator exam!  It’s pretty neat to be one of the first admins to hold this distinction.

In June 2016, Atlassian launched their JIRA Administrator Certification program.  Atlassian describes their certification as a way to “…enhance your credibility, sharpen your performance, and help you deliver world-class Atlassian experiences to teams everywhere.”  The first step is passing a general scenario-based exam, called “ACP-100.”  Then, you’re eligible to take additional advanced tests to showcase specialized skills and keep your certification current.  The first additional test is ACP-110: “Advanced JIRA Workflows.”

See also:  How to Study for JIRA Administrator Certification